Elden Ring looks a lot like many previous FromSoftware games, especially Dark Souls. Is Elden Ring a Souls game or is it something different?
Elden Ring’s gameplay looks very similar to Dark Souls which has led many fans to speculate that it may be part of that universe. The gameplay shown as part of the Elden Ring beta had a lot in common with Dark Souls 3. This has led to some fans worrying that the game won’t match up to the PS5 remake of Demon’s Souls which was developed by Bluepoint Games.
From Software have said that Elden Ring is a spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne. This means it fits the classification of a ‘SoulsBorne’ game, but Elden Ring is a new IP within the subgenre.
This confusion around Elden Ring’s identity increased when co-writer George R.R. Martin described Elden Ring as “a sequel to Dark Souls” in an interview. Some fans took this to mean Elden Ring will be set in the same universe as Dark Souls, although we suspect Martin was just speaking generally.
Instead, it’s more likely that Martin meant the game was a spiritual successor, sharing many qualities and mechanics. This is much in the same way that Dark Souls and Bloodborne are successors to Demon’s Souls, but not actual sequels.
Dark Souls started out life as a sequel to Demon’s Souls, but was eventually moved to a new publisher and turned into a different series – but connections between the two remained. Different publishers own the rights to various Souls games, even the ones developed by FromSoftware and directed by creator Hidetaka Miyazaki.
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When interviewed by FrontlineJP, Miyazaki was asked if Elden Ring was Dark Souls 4, and if not, why not? He responded by telling the interviewer that George R.R Martin’s involvement in crafting the game’s universe meant that he wanted to keep the two bodies of work separate, despite the clear similarities.
Essentially, Miyazaki didn’t want the creation of Elden Ring’s universe to be stifled by slotting into Dark Soul’s universe. This allowed himself and Martin, more “creative freedom” when it came to building the lore and gameplay mechanics.
There’s no universally accepted answer to this question. A Souls game or Souls-like game is a subgenre rather than a series or single established franchise. Even FromSoftware’s official Souls games exist in separate continuities (excluding Dark Souls 2 and 3, which are direct sequels to Dark Souls), although they all share various aspects. Bloodborne, for example, is a Souls game, despite not having the word ‘Souls’ in the title.
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Elden Ring is likely to do something similar, but set within its own universe while borrowing from previous FromSoftware games. Many will consider Elden Ring to be a Souls game, yet it’s still very much its own entity. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to call Elden Ring a Souls game, as it wears its Souls DNA proudly.
It’s worth pointing out that, as well as shared gameplay elements, there are some reoccurring characters and items in each SoulsBorne game such as Patches or the Moonlight Greatsword. Some fans believe that Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Elden Ring, may all be part of an interconnected multiverse. However, this is purely speculation and has never been confirmed by FromSoftware, Miyazaki, or the various publishers.
These fans believe that Dark Souls follows on from the dark ending of Demon’s Souls, while Bloodborne’s world could have come into being after the good ending. Other theories propose that Bloodborne is a world created by the painter at the end of Dark Souls 3. While some of these theories are not without merit or compelling evidence, they’re unlikely to ever be confirmed due to the rights of different games belonging to different companies.
This means they should all be taken with a pinch of salt. Remember, a lot of SoulsBorne lore is up to the player to decide based on the breadcrumbs they find in-game. It will be interesting to see if Elden Ring sparks similar fan speculation, should nods to earlier Souls games be unearthed.